MARIE CORELLI 1855 - 1924
Marie Corelli in her time was the most widely read author of fiction. Her books were overwhelmingly popular, published in their millions, and are still plentiful in second hand book shops and car boot sales all over the country. The critics loathed her, savagely criticising her talents, her plots, and her characterisations. The public adored her however as did both Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and the future King George V, and she had many friends amongst other literati and all the famous actors and actresses of late Victorian and the early part of the 20th Century.
Marie Corelli lived in Stratford-on-Avon with her life long companion Bertha Vyver who nursed her in 1900 when after a serious operation she came to Brighton and its restorative sea air to convalesce at The Kings (Private) Hotel, 139 Kings Road, Brighton. Clearly the healthy Brighton climate was effective, in fine fettle in 1903 Marie Corelli opposed the possible demolition of some historic cottages in Stratford-on-Avon and in the battle of words which ensued it was disclosed that she had been born Mary Mackay the illegitimate daughter of a well known Scottish poet and songwriter ! She won her case against the local dignitaries and the American Millionaire philanthropist Andrew Carnegie who had wanted to build a library on the site, but the scandal continued when she was later accused of having wanted to demolish the cottages herself to build her own “Marie Corelli Library.” She sued, won again, but was rewarded with only one farthing damages by the jury ! None of this damaged the sales of her books in any way.
She died at Stratford-on-Avon in 1924 and is buried there as is Bertha Vyver. Her house Mason Croft is now part of the University of Birmingham.